By Mohamed Yassin
The Nile Basin is an extended unique and rich territory in the African continent, which extends over diverse climatic regimes. Currently, the Nile basin is hosting almost half billion inhabitants (more than 42% of the African total population) and projected to double its populations in a rapid pattern within this century to reach around half of the continent projected population. The Nile Basin is endowed with significant natural resources and considerable biodiversity heritage. The Nile Basin has been and continues to host important civilizations and natural biospheres. The current political composition of the Nile Basin is eleven sovereign riparian states, namely Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Each of those riparian states has its own challenges and opportunities in terms of proper development, socioeconomic growth and prosperity. Ideally, each riparian can address its own challenges and harvest its untapped opportunities, but in reality each one is interdependent and interconnected with the other adjacent or non-adjacent riparian states in a way or another.
The Nile River is the common binding natural resources for all that countries and historically has been a founding fountain of livelihood for all within the Nile Basin and continue to be an important connection with Mediterranean and Asian populations and rest of the world. These countries have embarked in international and transboundary cooperation and dialogue for the water management, usage and development through diverse fora such as the Nile Basin Initiative with its secretariat in Uganda, Entebbe and the subsidiary offices in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa and Rwanda, Kigali. However, most of those efforts were limited only on conflictive focus on the water in separation from the rest of the ecological base and foundation and the supplementary tangible and intangible resources necessary for sustaining a sustainable livelihood in a comprehensive setting. Historically the management of Nile Basin resources have been managed in cooperative and competitive styles depending on epochal phases.
In the contemporary situation, these riparian countries need to have cooperative and sound competitive concerted and coordinated actions. That is a must need to foster the socio-economic development and its sustainability. Of course, each riparian country needs to reconcile its developmental needs and priorities with that of sister riparian country. Any unilateral actions to exploit monopolize the sharable benefits from the River Nile and its ecosystems will results in harmful impacts and outcomes for the very and single actor. It will be impossible for a single riparian country to monopolize the benefits and have the lion share of the River Nile, what so ever it is, unless the riparian countries merge in single institutional body united under the Nile Basin, for example an imaginable and possible the Nile Basin Community. That unionistic and mutualistic transformation might results in more beneficial, supportive, consolidating and solidarity spirit among the integrateable territories of the Nile Basin. All the Nile Basin riparian states as the rest of the planet are facing the challenge of how to reconcile the sustainable development and prosperity with the nature conservations and environmental protection.
The cooperation, collaboration and coordination of the sustainable management of the Nile Basin territorial capital, goes beyond a mandate of single line ministry of irrigation and water resources. A shift to a more inclusive, comprehensive, holistic and participatory approaches are imperative needs for all the Nile Basin community and that shoulders huge responsibilities on those who are currently leading the policy making and formulating the regional planning for the populations of the Nile Basin. All the Nile Basin states have a non-disputable right to carry on its national and strategic developmental short, medium and long terms plans and visions. All are facing challenging and complex food and nutrition security issues dictated by limited resources and growing demography, environmental and climate related challenges coupled with undergoing processes of industrialization and exploitation of the natural endowments, conservation of heritage and erection of infrastructures to sustain the territorial, socio-economic transformation and political stability and dynamics.
If we consider the infrastructures for the hydropower production and distribution, irrigation and resource management needed to boost the sustainable development in the Blue and Eastern Nile countries, namely Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan, comprehensively we can count around fifteen existing hydropower projects. With diverse developmental status among and within these four riparian countries, and if we go further deeper and extract the planned hydropower projects featuring in their national plans, we will notice that there are around twenty five, more or less new hydropower projects to be erected (See attached maps of the Nile Basin Initiative) to guarantee power security and socio-economic development and stability.
The current dispute and conflictive atmosphere created upon the under construction Millennium or Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is just one spot in the wider developmental scenario which will be witnessed in that Eastern Nile Region. Ethiopia is naturally gifted and endowed with considerable magnitude of water and high lands which qualify it to be an important Hydropower production hub, which can secure its energy needs and goes beyond to supply the region. At the same time, other parts of the region have its endowments which are not equally available among the Ethiopian natural capital and that could be compensate through analogues regional trade (Theory of comparative advantage and international trade can apply and fit the situation).
If we consider the Newly independent republic of South Sudan, we notice that currently it has zero hydropower plant and in its national strategic plans, it is qualified to erect around four hydropower projects which are Fula, Shukoli, Lakki and Bedden, and Sudan has plans to erect numerous new dams in addition to the newly terminated Morowe dam, these are Dal Low and Dal High, Kagbar, Dagash, Shereik and Sabaloka dams. While Egypt has a planned new dam at Assiut / Asyut. Doubtless, the erection of all that planned hydropower plants and projects will have huge socio-economic, environmental, ecological, landscape and territorial transformations and impacts, negative be it or positive. Surely that makes the cooperation among these directly engaged riparian countries as well as the rest of the Nile Basin Countries an non escapable necessity.
The future scenarios require frank dialogue and courageous confrontations putting a Nile Basin integrated community as top priority to address the current and latent challenges and at the same time work collectively to share the potential benefits of the expected positive and contractive transformation.
Mohamed Yassin is a Sudanese and Italian PhD candidate (2013-2015) in Economics, Ecology, Landscape and Territory at the Department of Civil Engineering & Architecture, University of Udine, Italy. He holds B.Sc. in Agricultural and Rural Economy (UoK Sudan), PGD in Rural development in Developing countries, PGD in International Development Cooperation, Masters in International Business Import Export Management and a M.Sc. in International Veterinary Cooperation (Italy). He has been visiting scholar at the University of Minnesota (USA) where he conducted research works on the Nile Basin. He is reachable at E: firstname.lastname@example.org E: email@example.com